Nancy Northup

President & CEO, Center for Reproductive Rights

Nancy Northup is the President of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global human rights organization that uses constitutional and international law to secure women’s reproductive freedom. The Center has brought groundbreaking cases before national courts, U.N. committees and regional human rights bodies and has built the legal capacity of women’s rights advocates in over 45 countries.

Ms. Northup joined the Center in 2003 with a rich mix of experience as a constitutional litigator, federal prosecutor and women’s rights advocate, plus a reputation for intelligence, passion and creativity. “I look forward to a time when a woman’s right to control her reproductive life is secured as a fundamental human right, which cannot be denied in the name of religion, culture or politics,” Ms. Northup declared at the time.

Since then, Ms. Northup has pursued that vision at the Center with bold, new strategies. Under her leadership, the Center has aggressively expanded its international program, including the launch of an international litigation campaign that has included the first abortion case decided by the U.N. Human Rights Committee and the first case to frame preventable maternal deaths as a human rights violation. Building on its established reputation as first-rate litigators, the Center has also taken the human rights framework into its work in the U.S. It is now documenting U.S. rights violations through fact-finding reports and holding the U.S. accountable before U.N. bodies that monitor compliance with international treaty obligations. In 2008, Ms. Northup led the Center to establish the Law School Initiative to promote legal scholarship and teaching on reproductive health and human rights, an emerging body of transnational law not yet widely taught in U.S. law schools. This ground-breaking effort will shape the thinking of the next generation of lawyers, judges and policymakers through fellowships for recent law school graduates, a visiting scholars’ program, curriculum development, conferences and publications.

Before coming to the Center, Ms. Northup was the founding director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. From 1989 to 1996, she served as a prosecutor and Deputy Chief of Appeals in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Ms. Northup graduated from Brown University and Columbia Law School, where she was a Kent Scholar and Managing Editor of the Columbia Law Review. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable Alvin B. Rubin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans. Ms. Northup holds adjunct appointments at NYU Law School and Columbia Law School where she has taught courses in constitutional and human rights law. She recently joined the Council on Foreign Relations.

A frequent public speaker, Ms. Northup is quoted widely in the national press and has appeared on ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, CNN, FOX News, PBS, MSNBC and NPR.

Ms. Northup was born in Kokomo, Indiana and grew up in New York, Texas and California. She serves on the Board of Trustees of All Souls Church, where she has also taught Sunday school. Ms. Northup lives in New York City with her teenage daughter and son.